Oil hovers below $76 in Asia as OPEC ministers say likely no change to output levels

By Alex Kennedy, AP
Monday, December 7, 2009

Oil below $76 as OPEC ministers flag steady output

SINGAPORE — Oil prices hovered below $76 a barrel Monday in Asia after several OPEC ministers said they don’t expect their group to change production levels at a meeting later this month.

Benchmark crude for January delivery was up 11 cents to $75.58 at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost 99 cents to settle at $75.47 on Friday.

Top oil officials from Libya, Kuwait, Algeria and Qatar said Saturday that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which supplies about 35 percent of the world’s crude, will likely leave output levels unchanged at the group’s next policy meeting on Dec. 22.

Saudi Arabia’s oil minister, Ali Naimi, said Saturday that oil prices, which have bounced around the high $70s for about two months, were “perfect.”

Oil traders are also eyeing the U.S. dollar as some investors buy crude as a hedge against inflation and a weaker U.S. currency.

On Friday, crude fell to a seven-week low after the Labor Department said the unemployment rate fell to 10 percent in November from 10.2 percent a month earlier, sparking a rally in the dollar.

The euro rose to $1.4864 in Asian trading Monday from $1.4851 on Friday while the dollar fell to 89.80 yen from 90.25.

In other Nymex trading in January contracts, heating oil rose 0.97 cent to $2.04 and gasoline was steady at $1.98. Natural gas jumped 11.5 cents to $4.70 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude for January delivery rose 28 cents to $77.80 on the ICE Futures exchange.

will not be displayed